The 3 Requirements For Ensuring Online Presence Is Effective

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How can credit unions ensure their online presence is effective, both for members and the credit union itself?

By establishing and meeting three goals, according to speakers at the Digital Insight National Conference: boost revenue, lower support costs and improve member satisfaction.

Clay Morgan, web services manager for Digital Insight, told attendees at an educational session that consumer "frustration time" online is a mere 10 seconds. If a website doesn't respond in that brief window, or if they cannot find what they are looking for, Internet users quickly will move on to another destination.

"The most basic thing is, make sure your website works," he said. "Also, you should make your design as simple as possible."

Navigation should be easy and consistent throughout the site, Morgan recommended. He said financial institutions can reduce content on a page by using fewer words and more bold headings.

"Be sure your users can scan the web page and see any key words in an instant. Know that few people are going to read everything on a given page word-for-word," he suggested.

According to Morgan, many website redesigns are unsuccessful because the financial institution does not correctly measure the effectiveness of changes, or the change is launched with weak or non- existent business goals.

"If all you do is change your graphics, you aren't making a major change," said Morgan, who had speakers from three financial institutions-two of them credit unions-demonstrate the three goals of a website.

Boosting Revenue

Todd Bogdan, senior vice president of technology for First National Bank of Cherokee, said his institution-a small community bank with branches in Woodstock, Marietta and Canton, Ga.-defined specific, website-related goals. He said the bank wanted to increase deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts; and increase online banking usage as a more cost-effective way to service those accounts.

"To achieve this, we used the website to promote specific products," he said. "We have a simple page design, so we can make changes with little HTML."

Lowering Support Costs

Ray Crouse, manager of e-services for Allegacy Federal Credit Union, said his credit union's website goal was to convert members to checking accounts that had less overhead, and to increase online certificate applications to increase savings.

To accomplish the first goal, Crouse said Allegacy, an $860-million CU headquartered in Winston-Salem, N.C., developed an online conversion form and directed members to a page outlining how an account switch would benefit them.

To increase savings, Allegacy offered a 0.1% rate bonus on certificates to members who bought the product online.

"We marketed these only through electronic means, but we used several methods," said Crouse. "We made the offer the center of the home page and the center of the investment page, plus we mentioned it in the 'message of the day' section of the site, and in the weekly e-mail update we send to members who sign up for it."

Allegacy's use of its website was a smashing success, according to Crouse. In one month, it converted 85 checking accounts "with zero marketing expense and just one hour of programming," he said. "And, we went from about four members signing up for online certificates per month to 45, for a total of $700,000."

Increasing Member Satisfaction

Digital Federal Credit Union has had great success with online banking. Tim Garner, Digital's vice president of marketing and strategic planning, said 54% of its members are active home bankers.

Garner said Digital, which is headquartered in Marlborough, Mass., had a lofty goal of presenting online "all knowledge that a member may need for anything financial."

"We wanted to become a trusted advisor," he explained. "We wanted to facilitate member self-service, and, at the same time, support our staff."

Digital designed an online consumer education program it called "StreetWise." This program offers information on purchasing big-ticket items such as automobiles, boats and recreational vehicles, plus primers on financial products and services from CDs to IRAs.

"As we grow and offer more products and services, it is becoming increasingly difficult for our frontline staff to know everything," said Garner. "StreetWise puts a lot of information on our Website, where both members and staff can look it up."

Garner said Digital is in the process of measuring the results of its online education program. He said the credit union is looking at internal service standards and conducting member satisfaction surveys.

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